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“I Thought God Was Wrong”

 

Natalie ClementsNatalie Clements is a self-described go-getter. A Seattle Pacific University senior majoring in nutrition with a concentration in dietetics and a minor in psychology, she served as coordinator for the student service group Latreia, helping the group to be recognized as the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP) 2009–10 organization of the year. During the 2010–11 academic year, Clements will serve in SPU’s student body government as the ASSP vice president of campus ministries. In the Loop caught up with Clements to discuss her experiences as a student leader.




How did you get involved in leadership?
As a freshman, I participated in a Latreia Service Day. Basically we helped a group called the Nature Consortium clean up and mulch blackberry bushes in the Seattle community.

I’m not someone who likes to go outside, so I went in with a totally terrible attitude. But by the end of the event God had changed my heart. There was a shift inside me. I knew I’d used my time well, that it was important to be a steward of God’s earth. So I went to another Latreia Service Day. And then the Latreia core team approached me to apply to be part of the leadership team.


So you immediately wanted to work with Latreia?
Well, no. I immediately thought I’d rather work on STUB (SPU’s Student Union Board), because I’m an event planner and they plan big events for students at the University. But I didn’t get accepted at STUB. It’s kind of funny now, but at the time I thought God was wrong. I thought, “I’m a planning person. I need to plan events.” Anyway, I was reluctant to join the Latreia team, but I did. And then it hit me, Latreia plans events. That’s what service days are.


What were some of the challenges you faced as a leader?
During my sophomore year, when I was on the Latreia core leadership team, our events weren’t well-attended. We’d have maybe 20–30 people volunteering during our service days. We did what we could within our responsibilities, but there wasn’t really a marketing effort and attendance was sort of a flop.

Another was when I became the group’s coordinator my junior year. We ended up with just six core leaders, which is small for teams on campus. It kept us busy and at times overwhelmed. For example, I had a service day due two days before a major essay was due for class. So balancing life as a student and a leader was challenging.


What are you most proud of as a leader?
I mentioned the attendance issue we had for our service days. I thought about how to network and actually build relationships. And I realized that Jesus met people where they were at. So I decided we needed to meet people in the dorms and build relationships with the kinds of people who wanted to serve. Within those relationships we worked to help the group understand that we really were about service. Not just going outside to mulch blackberry bushes, but doing whatever was needed around campus. That, along with shamelessly plugging Latreia wherever I went and advertising wherever possible, led 85 people to attend our first service day. By spring we had more than 100 people volunteer, which was a personal goal for me.


How did Seattle Pacific help you in your role?
SPU is a grace-filled place. They allow failure to happen, which taught me a lot. Plus I attended group. We were going through the Psalms and I realized that King David went through everything I felt like I was going through as a leader.


What’s next for you?
I’m going to be the ASSP VP for campus ministries. It’s going to widen my view of needs on campus. I won’t have the intimacy of my small group in Latreia. But I get to learn about a different kind of community and be part of a larger shared goal. I’m from the service side of ministries. Now I get to learn about the theology side of campus.



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